Dr. King's letter to a New York surgeon who saved his life

- Inside Ron Naclerio's office at Benjamin Cardozo High School, the pictures on the walls reflect a deep history. He is the winningest public school coach in New York State history. But one posting, right behind Naclerio's desk, stands apart from the rest. It's not related to basketball. It's a copy of a letter given to his father, written by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

"Dear Dr. Naclerio: Ever since leaving New York I have been intending to write you at least a note to express my great appreciation to you for all that you did to preserve my life," Dr. King wrote. "Your skilled surgery, coupled with your genuine concern for me as a patient, combined to bring me from a very low ebb in my life to blooming health again."

On September 20, 1958, Dr. King was in Harlem, at what was once Blumstein's Department Store, for a book signing. He was stabbed by a woman named Izola Ware Curry. The blade missed his aorta by millimeters. He was a sneeze away from death.

Dr. Emil A. Naclerio, Coach Naclerio's father, was one of three surgeons called in to help save the civil rights leader's life.

Naclerio was just 10 months old when his father became a part of history. 59 years later, he often reflects on the significance of that day. Coach Naclerio said that if his father hadn't saved Dr. King's life, the civil rights movement would not have made as much progress.

The two men stayed friends until Dr. King's assassination in 1968. Dr. Naclerio later passed in 1985. Coach Naclerio said that his father and Dr. King always managed to show love for each other even though they came from two different worlds.

In our ever-changing world, Naclerio hopes that in some way his own accomplishments help continue his father's legacy. 

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